The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) are two trade groups representing the largest food companies in America. They are under pressure from their member companies to alleviate the threat of the FDA’s new nutrition label, which was recently announced at the White House.
Why is the new nutrition label a threat?
Because it actually makes sense. Consumers will have a better understanding of how many calories they actually consume instead of puny portion sizes. Consumers will know just how much sugar was added to their bread, pasta sauce, or trail mix.
The food industry does not like this. Let’s be more precise: the companies selling crappy foods don’t like this. As a result, not one week after the FDA’s historic announcement, the GMA and FMI have brought out the heavy guns. The 2 organizations will be spending 50 million dollars to “educate” consumers on how to understand their Front-of-Pack labeling scheme called Facts Up Front.
This voluntary labeling program was announced 3 years ago and has been adopted to some extent by some manufacturers. We did not think highly of it then, nor do we now. Here’s what we wrote:
- There is no color coding of the nutrient info, so a consumer does not know if a certain amount of sodium or fat is high or not.
- The value for sugars is very confusing. Is 14 grams a lot or a little? Also, how much of the sugar is naturally occurring and how much has been added? Naturally occurring sugars (in fruit, veggies, dairy) at least come with additional nutrients. Lastly, there is no indication of the daily value for sugar consumption. (By the way, The 14 grams in the example above are 3.5 teaspoons of sugar.)
- Including 2 positive nutrients on the label will confuse consumers – A product high in saturated fat but also high in fiber – is it good or not? This will also encourage excessive fortification of foods just to appear healthy. You can fortify cardboard with some vitamins, it still won’t make it healthy to eat.
- There is no way to know how processed a food product is just by looking at the front of pack. Consumers should be encouraged to read the ingredient list.
So why are the GMA and FMI moving forward with this?
The hope is that this will put pressure on the FDA to rethink some of the planned changes for the nutrition label. We hope the FDA will simply ban these industry initiatives and adopt the front-of-pack labeling scheme that was suggested by the Institute of Medicine.